Statistics show that we’re entering the age of the mature-aged dad. Should we be concerned about potential health risks to children conceived by older fathers? Stephanie Stefanovic reports.

The findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal that in March 2011, 11.8 per cent of Australian fathers with children under 16 were aged 50 or older. In March 2015, that figure grew to 14.2 per cent, which is a proportional increase of 20 per cent. This raises questions about the effect this could have on the children.

“Not only has the proportion of young men aged 18-24 with children under 16 at home more than halved in the past few years, but there have also been declines in the proportions of dads aged 25-34 and 35-49 with kids at home,” said Michelle Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan Research.

As a result, the average age of the Australian father has increased at 41.55 years compared with 41.24 years in 2011 and 39.21 in 1997.

“Whoever said that 50 is the new 40 may have been right,” Michelle commented.

We’ve all heard that there is an increased risk of birth defects in babies conceived by women aged 35+, but can we apply the same logic to older fathers?

Many experts claim that children conceived by fathers aged 45+ could have an an increased risk of mental and physical disorders, but this has yet to be confirmed due to a lack of research.

In a recently published paper, scientists Brian D’Onofrio and Paul Lichtenstein attempt to add to this research.

The pair reveal the results of their study of all individuals born in Sweden from 1973 to 2001 (over 2.6 million people). The scientists explored individuals’ mental disorders by looking at inpatient hospitalisations and outpatient visits, as well as criminal convictions, low academic achievements and early school leavers.

They found that those born to fathers aged 45+ were more likely to suffer from schizophrenia (1.6 times) and autism (1.4 times) than those born to fathers aged 20-24. However, the study also found that those born to fathers aged 45+ were 43 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. These results are consistent with a similar study performed in Denmark.

Clearly, more research is needed to come to a conclusion on what could become a controversial topic in the years to come.